God made His image-bearers kings and queens over creation (Gen. 1:26–28). But we know what Lord Acton said: that kind of absolute power corrupts. And it surely has done so, in places all over the world. People do things to this planet, and to their fellow image-bearers, that are deeply wrong.
So why hasn’t God revoked our position, His permission and even command to “subdue the earth and have dominion over it”?
For one thing, we don’t have absolute power. We have finite power. Dependent power. Power given as a gift from a higher power.
For another thing, that Higher Power has told us to exercise our power in love, or our exercise of power is worthless (1 Cor. 13:3). What a great insight from Andy Crouch:
Why are the vast majority of parents not corrupted by their tremendous power? Because they are overtaken by love. They find themselves viscerally committed to another. I remember looking at my son playing in his room one day in his first year of life and realizing with a jolt that if he were to run out in the street in front of a bus, and the only way to save him was to throw myself in front of the bus, pushing him out of the way, I would do it in a heartbeat, without even thinking. So deep, so instinctual, so total is my love for my son that I would give up all my powers so that he might survive and thrive. So would almost every parent, especially in those early days when our children are most dependent on us. It is an almost precise inversion of Lord Acton’s observation: the more power we have over our children, the more we are willing to sacrifice for them. Love transfigures power. Absolute love transfigures absolute power. And power transfigured by love is the power that made and saves the world.